Ballots for the May 17 election are going out today, giving voters a few weeks to decide whether to approve bonds of up to $3 million to replace Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street.

Ballots for the May 17 election are going out today, giving voters a few weeks to decide whether to approve bonds of up to $3 million to replace Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street.

Replacing the station would cost a property owner $0.124 per $1,000 in assessed value per year for 20 years. A homeowner with a house assessed at $237,410 — the median in Ashland — would pay about $29.44 in additional property taxes annually.

In 2006, voters rejected a $5.4 million plan to replace the small, aging fire station, with many saying the proposed new station would have been too large and expensive. It also would have intruded on nearby Sherwood Park.

The new 10,000-square-foot design for a replacement station is 4,150 square feet smaller than the earlier plan and doesn't encroach on Sherwood Park, city officials said.

The 2,388-square-foot Fire Station No. 2 was built in 1965 of hollow, non-reinforced concrete block and is unlikely to withstand a major earthquake. Among other problems, vehicle emissions enter the living quarters of the firefighter-paramedics who are stationed there, city officials said.

The building was designed to house two firefighters and two emergency vehicles at a time when Ashland Fire & Rescue handled fewer than 100 calls each year, city officials said.

These days, the fire department — which added ambulance service after the station was built — handles 3,000 calls annually and provides 24-hour service for a 650-square-mile area, city officials said.

People who want to see the condition of Fire Station No. 2 for themselves are invited to take a tour whenever an "Open House" sign is posted outside. The building is at 1860 Ashland St. Groups of eight or more can schedule a tour by calling 541-482-2770.

City officials said Fire Station No. 2 is strategically located to provide five-minute response times to the south and southeast areas of Ashland.

In 1999, voters approved a $4 million bond measure to replace Fire Station No. 1 downtown, across from the Ashland library.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.